The majority of Singaporeans are Chinese (about 70 percent) with Malays comprising about 15 percent of the population, followed by Indians (about 10 percent). The remainder is made up of smaller groups of other ethnicities.
The country now faces a declining birth rate due to family planning policies in the past two decades.
The four official languages of Singapore are English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil.
The most common language used in Singapore is English, while the local dialect of English is Singlish which incorporates vocabulary from various Chinese dialects, Malay, and Indian languages.
The 700 square-kilometer country of Singapore is the smallest in Southeast Asia. It is located at the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula, just north of the Equator.
Its climate is hot and wet all year round with temperatures ranging from 22-34 degrees Celsius, with high humidity levels throughout the day.
Singapore was a Malay fishing village when it was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles who made it a British colony in 1819. It was then that Catholic missionaries first came here. The Church played a major role in education, health care and social welfare in the building up of the country.
During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by the Japanese, and in the 1960s was part of the Federation of Malaysia before gaining its independence on Aug 9, 1965.
As Singapore is a country with few natural resources, it sought to fully develop its port facilities and to properly educate its people, which form its largest resource.
Singaporean politics have been dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP) since the country's independence in 1965.
The Republic of Singapore has faced criticism for being a reduced democracy because of its dominant-party system and has attracted controversy for some of its policies, including a birth control policy in the 1970s. The Prime Minister is Lee Hsien Loong, eldest son of Singapore's first Prime Minister, now Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.
The office of the President of Singapore has always been a ceremonial one as the head of state, but the constitution has since been amended to grant the President veto powers in several important decisions.
Today, more than 90 percent of Singapore's population live in housing estates established by the Housing Development Board. Daily, nearly half its population of 4.35 million uses the public transport system which consists of train and bus services.
Singapore is a thriving center of commerce and industry. Its former role as an entrepot has diminished, as the nation has increased its manufacturing base. Singapore is the busiest port in the world and one of the world's major oil refining and distribution centers. It is also a major supplier of electronic components and a leader in shipbuilding and repairing. It has also become one of the most important financial centers of Asia, with more than 130 banks.
The development level of the telecommunications infrastructure is high across the country. Almost everyone owns a cellular phone, even some of those living in poverty. Most households have at least one computer with internet access, a telephone, and a television.
All radio and television stations are owned by the government. The print media is dominated by Singapore Press Holdings which publishes the main English-language newspaper in the country which provides general news coverage.
Primary education is compulsory in Singapore and, as such, the literary rate is 95 percent. The education is rigorous and specialized, and attracts many international scholars.
Singapore is a multi-religious country. The majority of Singaporean Chinese profess adherence to Buddhism, which in Singapore is usually a fusion of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and ancestral worship. Most Malays are Muslims.
Christianity in Singapore consists of Roman Catholicism and various Protestant denominations, comprising about 15 percent of the population. Other religions include Sikhism, Hinduism, and the Baha'i faith.
Gonsalo's martyrdom at Nagasaki with the other Christian missionaries is regarded as the most tragic and historic event for Catholicism in Japan
Calungsod and his companion Father Vitores baptized infants, children and adults, defying the risk of persecution and murder
Despite being an ordinary layman, Ruiz remained defiant while facing torture by the Japanese and died a brave martyr
He was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is now the patron saint of Korea
This fabled church is also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross) Church
Asian Catholics who cannot visit famous Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in France can revere miraculous Mother Mary at Velankanni shrine in India. The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as “the Lourdes of the East” and holds the largest Catholic Church in Asia.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the finest churches and a historic but also a landmark in Kerala state of southern India. Santa Cruz Church blends Indo-European and Gothic architectural style that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. The cathedral is a great place of devotion and historic significance that survived colonial conquests and invasions to the city.
Mokama Marian shrine on the southern bank of Ganges River bears the legacy persecuted Nepali Catholics banished from their homeland to India for refusing to renounce their faith. Our Lady of Divine Grace Church at Mokama stands about 90 kilometers from Patna, the capital of eastern Indian state of Bihar. Mother Mary is popularly known as Mokama Mata (Mother of Mokama). The church was built to honor Mary in 1947.
The shrine holds a three-meter-tall, white-stone carved statue Virgin Mary on the Tao Pao Mountain in the Diocese of Phan Thiet in southern Vietnam, about 1,600 kilometers from the national capital Hanoi.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Urakami of Nagasaki is a witness of persecution of Christians from 17th to 19th centuries and deadly atomic bombing during the Second World War. This European-style, red-brick church continues to preserve some relics that survived the atomic bombing. Urakami cathedral, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, was almost destroyed when the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 9, 1945. The church stood about 500 meters from the hypocenter of atomic explosion. The devastation shattered and charred stone-made statues of saints, which were later preserved as relics along with the surviving head of Virgin Mary statue and one of the church’s original bells.
Our Lady of Akita Catholic Church is Yuzawadai is among the most famous churches in Japan. The church shot into global fame thanks to a wooden statue of Blessed Virgin Mary that wept 101 times and Marian apparitions to Japanese nun Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa that miraculously healed her hearing impairment. Japanese wooden sculptor Saburo Wakasa from Akita city carved the now-famous miraculous statue of Virgin Mary in 1963.
The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Seria is a small church on the western Belait district of Brunei, but it shot into fame thanks to the nation’s most famous Catholic – late Cardinal Cornelius Sim. It is also the second of three churches in Brunei dedicated to Virgin Mary. In fact, Mary has a prominent place not only in Christianity, but also in Islam, the dominant faith in Brunei. Holy Quran mentions Mary seventy times and reveres her as the greatest woman to have ever lived.